Friday, July 11, 2008

on migraines and a path to harmony

I did not originally plan to write a post about spirituality and migraines, as my faith is erratic at best. I'll admit to you now that after reading fellow blogger Megan Oltman's entry on the subject (God Grant Me the Serenity to Accept Migraines I Cannot Change), I felt moved to write my own thoughts. (Thank you, Megs.)

I consider myself agnostic. I was raised Catholic in my family of five, though as time passed, we five Catholics became five different faiths. My father has become more Catholic as he's gotten older. He and I aren't on the best of terms, and perhaps that contributed to my ultimate rejection of Catholicism. (That isn't the subject of my post, however, so I won't detail it here.) My mother is atheist, though she often refers to the power of the "cosmos". My sister converted to Judaism; my brother is "spiritualist other". And then there's me.

My spirituality is best explained as a search for harmony within myself, and with the world around me. I live my life honestly, trying to be true to myself and to those around me. I've been drawn to yoga and now tai chi as an extension of this search for harmony, as they serve as wonderful stress relievers, as well as a way to listen to my body.

Listening to my body. Hmm. Turns out that's key to living well with migraine disease.

Like many others, I finally crossed the line from Catholic to agnostic in college. That is also the time I discovered how important it is for me to listen to my body. At times, I could (and did) override its needs. But college is also when I started yoga, and having that hour-long class each week - even though I didn't always stick with it - gave me an opportunity to hit pause and dig within myself to listen to my needs. And it also gave me a way to reach out to my environment and listen to what was going on around me, to appreciate the simple beauty in a tree or flower.

Now that my migraines have become chronic, and a singular migraine, I've found again the importance of harmony within myself. As an attempt to ease my pain, I've begun to live a much healthier lifestyle. I keep a strict diet. I sleep regular hours. I moderate my indulgences. I do a relaxation exercise every night at bed, to reset myself and to combat my chronic insomnia. And I try to do moderate exercise every week, tai chi with a DVD when I can or even just a walk in town. (Unfortunately, all of these changes have made negligible difference on my daily pain.)

More than anything else, though, I listen to my body and try my best to create harmony and balance for myself. One of the many reasons seeking harmony is important is that it lets me feel I'm doing all I can for my body - and mind - to live healthfully. If I'm living as healthfully as I can, then I can feel confident I'm doing my part in my migraine treatment.

Studying 35 mm photography in college, a hobby and love I have continued post-graduation, taught me to look at the world differently. To find beauty in unexpected places, in the curve of a path in a garden or the grit of a city. I've learned since then to find the beauty of harmony within myself, which has been an essential coping tool living with migraines.

Perhaps my flavor of spirituality is unconventional, or even offensive or silly to some. Perhaps some will see this as an opportunity to convert me; please understand I am not interested in that. I do think that the basic idea of harmony is one that many of us can embrace, especially in the context of chronic illness.

So, on the days of severe pain, when I rage at the unfairness of it, I try to slow down, breathe, and delve deeper into that part of myself that is separate from the pain. It won't make the pain go away, or easier to bear, but it does help me find a spot of peace in an otherwise turbulent world.

Be well,


nutmegan said...

Well done, MJ! Thanks for the shout out, too, but I identify with you and your journey. Sometimes I think I was really lucky not to have been raised in any particular religion because I got to invent my own brand of spirituality, and don't have something to rebel against! But it's hard to give voice to our connection with spirit when we don't have a conventional religion to use the language of. Thanks for digging deep down to express something that's hard to talk about.
- Megs

Kelly, FlywithHope said...

MJ, I truly appreciate what you are saying in your post. And I can really identify with trying to find the "harmony within". Before my migraines started, I actually wrote a journal entry where I said "It feels like my body is screaming STOP!" And within a couple weeks, my body stopped for me with the onset of NDPH and increased migraines. Finding a balance within myself has been truly a journey. And, I agree, finding the harmony within is an essential tool coping with migraines.
Thank you for sharing!

MaxJerz said...

Megs and Kelly, thanks to both of you for your comments! I enjoyed this particular blog carnival a lot and reading your entries on the subject.

Be well,

New York Acupuncturist said...

Have you ever considered acupuncture for your migraines? I have helped a lot of patients become migraine-free without the side effects of medication. You should look for a good acupuncturist in your area.